Penn women’s basketball is going back to Cali.
After earning the Ivy League’s automatic bid with a victory over Princeton in the Ivy League Tournament final on Sunday, the Quakers drew a 12 seed in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament. Penn (22-7, 15-1 Ivy) will head to Los Angeles, Calif., to face No. 5 seed Texas A&M on Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
The fanfare began early before the 7 p.m. selection show, with each member of the team being introduced as well as interviews with coach Mike McLaughlin and several players. Once the show began, the Red and Blue did not have to wait very long, as their game was the third one to be revealed.
The seeding makes sense given the course of Penn’s season. With their record and current RPI of 50, the Quakers could have potentially moved up a seed or two, but the loss to Binghamton at home on November 16 probably cost them a chance at an easier opponent.
“I thought we were going to be a 12, 13 seed,” McLaughlin said. “It’s right where we should be, we’re a top 50 RPI team, I think a 12 seed is respectable for us. It’s right were we should be.”
The trip to California will be the second that the Quakers make this year. Over Winter Break, the Red and Blue captured a pair of victories out west over CSU-Northridge and UC-Riverside. Teams in the tournament are often placed in a first-round location that is relatively nearby, but that was not the case today.
“I was surprised, I kind of thought we would be closer to the region, that was my first reaction,” McLaughlin said. “I saw our name and didn’t realize where we were going, it all came up on us pretty quick.”
Still, while the location is certainly not close to home for the Quakers, it is a nice change of pace from their last two tournament appearances. In both 2014 and 2016, Penn traveled to the University of Maryland and lost almost identical games.
In last year’s rendition, No. 10 Penn led No. 7 Washington at half, but a big second half performance from then-junior Kelsey Plum, now the NCAA record holder for points, pushed the game out of reach.
This year, the Aggies (21-11, 9-7 SEC), who received an at-large bid, will certainly be a challenge for the Quakers. As a team, they are averaging nearly 70 points a game, and they ranked as high as No. 19 in the USA Today Coaches Poll this season. The team is led by a trio of second-team All-SEC players in junior center Khaalia Hillsman, sophomore guard Danni Williams and senior guard Curtyce Knox.
If the Quakers manage to advance past Texas A&M, they would face the winner of the matchup between No. 4 UCLA and No. 13 Boise State.
Penn women’s basketball has their work set out for them, but they could afford to celebrate for one night longer.
“It’s important to us that we go out there and we try to win a basketball game,” McLaughlin said.
“But for now this is about this right now and all the kids that were here.”
Correction: A previous version of this article said the Penn-Texas A&M game would be on Sunday. The game will actually be on Saturday. The DP regrets the error.
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